My Take: HBO’s Documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”

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I didn’t watch this when it actually premiered, I watched a couple of days later on HBO Go, so I had seen a lot of reaction to this documentary before hand. Most of the chatter was terribly negative toward Scientology, some going so far as to say the documentary gave them nightmares, and many people were downright appalled at what was going on in Scientology circles. My reaction to that is, they must not have been paying attention because Scientology has been getting lots of negative press for years and years and years. This documentary was directed by Alex Gibney and written by Gibney and Lawrence Wright. It was a well done documentary and sustained my interest throughout. It was like watching a sordid soap opera, one I just couldn’t quit watching, but there was really nothing new under the sun. And therein lies my problem with everyone’s horror over Scientology, which I will try and explain.

This documentary made clear the absurdity of the “beliefs” of Scientologists and the clear mental health issues of its founder L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was a prolific writer and did very well in the science fiction genre. Much of the bones of his Scientology religion was taken directly from some of his early science fiction writing. He was an abusive husband who kidnapped his daughter when his wife tried to leave, took her out of the country and told his wife he had killed her. She ultimately got her daughter back and was able to divorce him, but it is clear he was a dangerously troubled man. He threatened suicide regularly as well. Hubbard began agitating early on to have Scientology classified as a religion in order for it to be tax exempt as he knew that was the best way to make gobs of money, however it was not until after his death that Scientology, under the leadership of David Miscavige, managed to bully the IRS, through thousands of lawsuits by its members and by brilliantly making public the folly’s in the agency’s own actions, into classifying Scientology as a religion. Even Hubbard’s writings were classified as religious texts and cannot be taxed.

One of the main points of the doc was that Scientology is more of a cult than a religion, citing the fact that it is ruled over by one enormously powerful man, David Miscavige who assumed leadership at Hubbard’s death, who brooks no argument or dissidence from his flock, and who uses intimidation and outright abuse to keep them under his sway. The people in the inner circle who do all of the hard work to keep it running are paid something like $50 dollars a week. Scientology also takes enormous sums of money from it’s adherents and makes it extremely difficult for members to quit if they wish. Some of the ways they make life terrible for those wanting to leave is to threaten to, or actually follow through with making public very private admissions made during “auditing” sessions. There were accusations of people being held against their will, their children being taken from them and worse. They also harass and stalk people who manage to get out, especially if they speak out against Scientology.

So basically, Scientology is a set of gobbledygook “beliefs” made up by a mentally ill man, that uses intimidation and quite possibly illegal treatment of it’s members to keep its secrets and is making a privileged few very, very, very rich. And that very wealth is what keeps the average person from being able to afford to fight back.

I believe that Scientology is a scam. I believe that it has suckered intelligent and basically decent people into following tenants that serve mainly to keep them in line and oppressed. I believe that its members are not what is important, it’s the money that’s important. The thing is, I believe those things about religion in general. And I am not an atheist. Just completely not down with organized religion. And that is why I have a problem with everyone’s horror over Scientology.

Firstly, we live in the United States of America. We are a free country. We are free to believe whatever we want to believe. We have freedom of religion. And boy do people believe lots of different things here. And while I may upset some people by saying this, I’m going to anyway, ALL religions have some weird ass shit they want you to believe, do, think about, follow through with and convert others into believing. ALL of them. And most of them have precious little leeway in condemning the practices of other religions when most of them have huge, clanking skeletons in their own closets. As to the uproar over Scientology being tax exempt by being classified as a religion, I think that is outrageous and should be changed immediately. The problem is I believe all religions should have their tax exempt status revoked. They all blatantly break the law by using their platforms for political gain and while I know there are small poor churches that struggle to get by, there are far too many “mega-churches” rolling in the dough while people starve. And don’t get me started on the wealth of the Catholic church. Such wealth would not be a problem if there weren’t people starving, or going without medicine or any number of other things, but there are and that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Every ex-member who spoke in this documentary about Scientology, spoke of their shame in having been a part of the religion, many of them for decades. Once they were out of the bubble of Scientology influence, they couldn’t believe what they believed for so long and what they did in order to protect it. That to me is the main takeaway of this documentary. People must think for themselves, never allow others to dictate how they should behave and should run for the hills the second anyone tries to make them believe hurting another person is “right” because it is for their own good. It’s all common sense to me, but I know how being a part of something greater than yourself can be so alluring. And when you have charismatic, manipulative “leaders” who are able to make people think they know better it can be hard to discern what is off. But again, every one of those people who have left spoke of a little voice they ignored telling them something wasn’t right. Learn to trust your instincts. Learn to think for yourself. Learn to be discerning. Step outside whatever bubble you’ve allowed yourself to be enclosed in and see how other people live. No matter what you call that bubble. The prison of belief is one of our own making.

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I Win. Yay! Happy Dancin’

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So, in my last post I was pissed. I was being cheated and I was pissed. But I wasn’t going to just bend over. Here’s what happened:

I confirmed my deposits with Camden Glen Lakes. Turns out I did not have to put an apartment deposit down, because my credit was good. So I only paid a $400 pet deposit, $200 of which was refundable. I sent a long email to the manager of Lakeside at Northpark and let her know I wasn’t going to bend over and be cheated and if I didn’t get a prompt reply to my concerns I would be filing a grievance with the proper regulatory body. I received a voice mail from her the following day telling me she had sent my email to the district manager who would be contacting me.

This is what he sent me in reply:

“Your concerns about your refund were forwarded to me for further review, as it appears that some of the underlying questions stem from when we took over management of the property for the new ownership.

I did review all of the lease documents associated with your apartment, including your Camden lease and the Security Deposit accounting from when the property changed ownership.

According to Camden’s records, you had a $200 total deposit on hand, which was exclusively your Pet Deposit. From the email and my discussions with the site staff, I understand that you feel that you should have a total of $400 deposit. When reviewing your lease, I did note that your latest renewal (2/8/14 – 2/3/15) lists your Security Deposit as “$0.00”. There is an animal addendum that coincides with the email from Camden below. You paid a total of $400 when you added your pet. $200 of that was a non-refundable fee and $200 of that was applied as a Security Deposit: the $200 we showed to have on hand for your apartment.

With respect to the cleaning charge, I did review your ledger but I did not see the $70 check deposited that you stated you paid prior to move-out. I do see however that you were charged a $60 cleaning fee, once, when we processed your move-out, which is less than specified on your lease. You should have been billed $70, as your apartment was a two bedroom.

As for the utilities, I understand that Camden and our staff clarified that utility bills are actually billed in arrears and the pro-rations you were billed were due to the methodology of billing in arrears and that the amounts were true as accrued through your move-out.

One of the other complicating factors, which may or may not have contributed to some of the confusion is that we did not receive a rent payment for your pro-ration in February, leading to the additional billing of $78.06 (cable, trash and rent).

I do have a call in to our accounting office to determine the status of your refund and can let you know as the information is relayed to me. If you would like for me to revise your Final Account Statement to correct for the couple of items that I noticed you were billed incorrectly for above, I can work on processing that but it will delay any refund you may be receiving. However, just at first glance, your refund would go down.

Let me know if you have any questions.”

This was just parroting back to me everything the manager had been telling me. This is my reply to him:

“Mr. Cross,

As has been repeatedly discussed with your unfriendly, disrespectful, extremely rude and incompetent staff, I DID pay the prorated rent for February. I have attached the scan from my bank of the check, dated 1/2/15 in the amount of $1,367.78 which included January rent in the amount of $1170.00, February prorated rent for 3 days in the amount of $125.36 (I’m sure your math skills are up to the task of checking that amount, right?) leaving $72.42 for the water/gas/trash for the previous month. I have also attached a scan of the negative of the check I wrote on 2/3/15, the last day of my lease and the day I dropped off the keys, in the amount of $70.00 that I wrote for the cleaning fee. I was subsequently told the cleaning fee was being waived because I had left my apartment so clean. Which is why I don’t have the actual check, because it was never deposited. As I said in my previous email, if you are going to go back on your waiver of the cleaning fee and remove it from the deposit, I want my check back. You do not get to have my check AND remove it from my deposit. I wouldn’t put it past you or your disrespectful staff to deposit it after I’ve received the refund that it was already removed from.

I checked again with Camden and they confirmed I did not pay an apartment deposit, only a pet deposit. Interesting that your rude and incompetent staff told me I had an apartment deposit and no pet deposit, hence much of the confusion. Since I’ve proven I paid the pro-rate for February and since I paid the last water/trash/gas bill that was sent to my new address, there could, at best be only a few days of water/gas I still owe, if any. Your assertion that my deposit refund should be smaller is in fact false. I still expect an accounting (bill, invoice) of whatever water/gas charges I’m being billed for, dates of service and amount. Please, please, please try and tell me again that I didn’t pay my prorated February rent when I have the proof here. Even if you remove the $70 cleaning fee (AND RETURN MY CHECK) and any small amount of water/gas I MIGHT still owe, and even if I only had the $200 pet deposit, my refund should be over $100. I proactively did everything I could to make a smooth transition, paying the Feb. prorate with my Jan. rent/water/gas, writing a check for the cleaning fee when I dropped off my keys, leaving my apartment in excellent shape, and promptly paying the water/gas bill I received for the last month I was in residence and I have never in my life dealt with such an incompetent and rude group of people. I lived in those apartments for 7 years. I moved because your staff was so rude. Even going in to pick up a package, tenants were treated like scum. And they clearly have no idea what they are doing. I am a professional business person, dealing with invoice/billing and customer relations daily, and the level of incompetence borders on criminal. Your staff decided they did not like the fact that I was calling them on their mistakes and so decided to try and bully me. You can be assured that even if you choose to do what is right, I will file a complaint with the BBB and any other place I can file a complaint. If you decide to try and cheat me further, I will file a formal complaint with the state regulatory agency.”

I admit to some snark about his math skills. This is how he replied:

“I will review the additional documentation you have provided and get back to you. However, the name calling and disrespectful tone of your email is not needed. I have never had any interactions with you prior to this e-mail chain and I am working to try to resolve the issues you have listed.”

This is how I replied back to him:

‘I sir, did not call you any names. I have only described my interactions with your staff. They are not exaggerated and I will not be called out for being truthful. Seriously, I have NEVER been treated the way your staff has treated me and I don’t much care that you don’t like the fact that that makes me angry.”

So, all of this occurred on Monday 3/16. I did not hear a word back from him. When I had not heard a word as of Tuesday 3/24 I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to file a complaint. I decided to give it the rest of the week. But when I got home and checked the mail there was a check from Lakeside at Northpark. I had a $200 deposit available for refund. The check was for $204.34. Apparently when someone actually looked at the books it turns out they owed me an extra $4.34. So rather than contact me and admit that his staff had made mistakes, apologize and at least try and repair some of the damage he was a coward and just mailed the check. Asshole. There. Now I’ve called him a name.

Corporate America’s Big F*ck You to Ordinary Americans

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I should start out this post by saying I am angry. I am angrier than I have been in a long time and I’m having a hard time letting it go because I feel so powerless in this situation. I don’t just feel powerless, I AM powerless. And that feeling has led me to act in a way that I don’t like. I’m hoping writing it down, getting it out of my head and my gut and my heart and down on paper will help. It won’t resolve the situation, but maybe I can just let the anger go. We’ll see.

I am being fucked over by a corporation. This isn’t the first time either and although the last time the circumstances were different the end result is causing hardship for me, while said corporations steal and cheat their way to profits on the backs of working Americans. So, I guess I should start at the beginning. In 2008 I moved into an apartment complex in Dallas. It was called Camden Glen Lakes. While I had the usual issues of apartment living, management was always helpful and accommodating and worked to make sure things were right. In October/November 2014, the complex was bought by another corporation. The changeover was not smooth. The resident portal (where we paid rent, put in maintenance requests and had access to our past leases, which were all done virtually) was taken down without warning giving residents no time to print said leases etc. It was not restored before I moved. The new management/office personnel were unfriendly, snarky, rude, you name it. And it’s not just me, when you look at reviews online, that is being said over and over. The complex is now called Lakeside at Northpark. I have tried and tried to find out the name of the corporation that now owns the complex, but have been unsuccessful. Camden has many properties and has an easy system for contacting their corporate headquarters, but Lakeside at Northpark has no such transparency. My workplace moved its headquarters and since my lease was up on Feb. 3, 2015, I thought I might like to move too in order to be a bit closer to work since the office move increased my commute time. The ill manners of the new management made the decision easier and I was lucky enough to find a place a tiny bit cheaper than what I was already paying (and they raise the rent every year, so it’s even more so) in a nice area, very close to my new workplace. Also per the lease agreement you have to let them know you are moving out 60 days before you do, and finding an availability 2 months in advance, in your price range, in the area you are looking can be a challenge. So, I was happy with the change I was making.

When I moved into my previous complex in 2008, I paid a $200 deposit on a 2 bedroom and a $400 pet deposit for my cat, of which only $200 is refundable because they have to get rid of all the nonexistent fleas and grossness of my totally indoor cat. It’s a ridiculous amount, but the apartments have all the power, especially in a red (R) state like Texas that is completely pro business, completely fuck you consumer. So, if on move out there is no damage and the apartment is left clean I would be looking at a $400 refund on deposits. Since I had to pay a $250 deposit on my new 2 bedroom with a $300 pet deposit for my cat, you can understand why I’d be looking forward to getting that back. The last year of my old lease an addendum was added that upon move out the renter would be charged a $70 cleaning fee, no matter what the state of the apartment at move out. Just another way to soak the consumer.

Anyway, when I paid my last month’s rent in January, I went to the office and found out how much the prorated rent for February was since my move out date was Feb. 3rd. I added that to my rent check along with the water/gas/utilities that I paid every month. When I turned in my keys, I wrote a check for the $70 cleaning fee and I asked the office how long it would take to receive my deposit refund. They told me my refund depended on  the state of the apartment. I told them I knew that and I still wondered how long it would take. She looked up my information and told me that I had paid a $200 deposit and it would take about 30 days to get a refund. I said I also paid a $400 pet deposit, $200 of which is refundable. She said Camden did not give us that information. I said well you need to get it from them. She said we will contact Camden about the pet deposit. She reminded me that I would be receiving a final bill for water/gas/trash since those were always billed a month or so behind. I received that bill a little over a month after I moved out, wrote them a check for it and then called them to ask again about the refund. I was told they were working on it and that they were going to waive the cleaning fee since I left the apartment in such good shape. They never deposited that check.

After 5 weeks had passed, I called Lakeside at Northpark to check on the status of my refund. I was told that it had been sent to corporate for approval and my refund amount was $41. I was all like how did you get to $41 dollars? She said well you had a $200 deposit and you still owe the cleaning fee and utilities and that was taken from the deposit. As you might imagine I was a little hot and it apparently sounded in my voice because when I said, I paid $600 in deposits, $400 of which is refundable, I wrote you a check for the cleaning fee that you never deposited because you said you were waiving the fee due to the awesomeness of my apartment and I already paid the “final” utilities bill you sent; she said, in that smug, patronizing tone of voice that is designed and perfected for the sole purpose of pissing someone off further; ma’am, there is no reason to be rude. This is a professional conversation. So I proceeded to tell her that her professional assessment of what I owed and the amount of the refund was bullshit. More faux outrage about my use of foul language and how it wouldn’t be tolerated ensued at which point I said, you told me 5 weeks ago that you would find out from Camden the true amount of my deposits, you told me you were waiving the cleaning fee and in fact did not deposit the check I ALREADY WROTE for that purpose and I’ve paid what you told me was the FINAL utilities bill! So she said, ma’am if you can’t have a professional conversation without that tone of voice, at which point I repeated what I said before, more faux outrage, I repeated it again at which point she decided I wasn’t going to just go away so she said, well I will just go ahead and wave the cleaning fee. I said what about the utilities? She said well they are always billed a month behind. I said this is 2 months later I paid the month behind bill you sent 3 weeks ago, I have the deposited check as proof. She said, yes that payment shows in my ledger but my ledger shows you still owe $100 in utilities (it changed 3 times in the course of our “conversation” from $99.something to $103.something to “around” $100). I told her that her ledger was full of shit. She started again with the ma’am at which point I interrupted and said what about the deposit. She told me she would call Camden and find out and call me back. This was at 4:45 in the afternoon. I gave her until 1:30 the following afternoon. She did not call back.

I called Lakeside at Northpark back. Spoke to Lauren which is who I spoke with the day before. I said you never called me back. She said, (and this is in quotes because it is verbatim) “Yes. You’re $41 refund is at corporate for approval.” I said did you not call Camden? She said I think we are having a miscommunication, I’m going to transfer you to my manager. I said please do. I’m not going to go completely through the back and forth with Lisa, the manager of Lakeside at Northpark. Suffice it to say her condescension, patronizing tone and downright rudeness made Lauren seem like a stellar customer service employee. I was told that she was not going to call Camden to fix the mistake, she didn’t have time to check on every little issue that every person had and if I disagreed with their records on the amount of deposits I paid, I would have to prove otherwise. I asked her how I was to prove it when they closed the resident portal and I had no access to my lease agreements she told me I should have printed them out. I said you have access to my lease agreements all you have to do is look at them and she told me it is not my responsibility to fix your mistakes. Her tone and absolute unwillingness to work with me even a little, frankly had me very flabbergasted. I said, ok you’ve told me I still owe “around” $100 in utilities in spite my already paying the “final” utilities bill you sent me. I want a bill for those charges. She said I’m not going to do that. I said, you can’t charge me for something and not tell me the dates of service and for what. She said I can and I have done. Again, her tone was, I don’t even know how to describe it, just as if she was talking to a worthless piece of shit that she couldn’t wait to get off the phone with. That combined with her flat-out telling me she could take my money without invoicing or billing for it shocked me so badly that what I said next just flew out of my mouth. I have never spoken like that to anyone’s face. (I have thought it more than once) I truly believe that no matter the situation, name-calling is utterly off the table. And yet, “you are such a bitch” came out of me and I was so shocked that it was barely above a whisper and then I slammed the phone in her ear. And the best part about all this? Not only is she trying to cheat me out of money owed to me, I have felt terrible, TERRIBLE ever since, for the way I acted and for calling her a bitch. I still feel terrible. I feel GUILTY for bad behavior and I know for a fact that my behavior just reinforced her belief that the way she treated me was correct. Allowing someone to upset you to the point that I allowed her to upset me never works in your favor.

Of course I’m not going to just bend over and take it. I sent an email to the corporate headquarters of Camden telling them the problem and hoping they could send proof that I had paid the pet deposit. I also called my bank to find out if it was possible to get a scan of the original check I wrote in April of 2008. They didn’t automatically scan them then like they do now, but she said a photocopy of it could be made that would cost me $5 and would take 5 to 7 days to be mailed to me. 1 piece of paper, what, about .45 cents for postage? And they charge $5. I suppose it could have been worse. Banks are notorious for how they screw people. Anyway, that’s where things stand for now. I’m also going to dig through old paperwork this weekend and see if maybe I still have my original lease from 2008 that I did have a hard copy of. I know I can prove that I paid the pet deposit, but I’m damned if I know what to do about the “utilities” that she refuses to send me a bill for. How do I keep her from cheating me that way? Any ideas, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t live in the Lakeside at Northpark apartments in Dallas.

ETA: I just got a reply from Camden telling me what I already know, that I paid a $400 pet deposit, $200 of which is refundable. I have no idea if that is enough to convince the fine ladies of Lakeside at Northpark. I think I will wait until I receive the copy of the check from the bank as well as see if I have a copy of my original lease from 7 years ago (unlikely but maybe). The more proof the better!

A farewell to Leonard Nimoy, symbol of an era

RIP Leonard Nimoy.

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The son of Ukrainian immigrants who grew up in the Big Apple, Nimoy won the hearts of esnl’s generation for the role which will forever define him, the ever-logical voice of detachment that was Star Trek’s Mister Spock — the dispassionate voice of moderation to the hyperkinetic Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. The oddest of couples, to a generation they represented a hopeful possibility in a day when air raid sired tests happened monthly and the threats of nuclear war and racial violence dominated the news pages.

Star Trek was a world where black, white, Asian, Russian, Scot, and Midwesterners could engage in harmonious cooperation, even with a pointy eared alien as the second-in-command.

USA Today assembled a collection of archetypal Spock moments, the fitting acknowledgments of the role that Nimoy first fought to distinguish himself from, then embraced:

Classic Vulcan Moments

Program notes:

Watch classic scenes of Star…

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Jason Momoa is Aquaman

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My son texted me this graphic today. We love movies and keep each other updated on new information we hear about. I was completely clueless that this was even a thing, but now I am fairly certain Aquaman is my new favorite superhero, because DAMN. I volunteer for one of the other six spots! I’m not sure yet what my superpower is, but I’ll think of something. So I think this is for the Justice League movie, but I think Aquaman should definitely get his own movie.

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What do you think of Jason as Aquaman? Let me know in the comments!